S. Platte Bitten by Benzene Attack

Denver carp community first on the scene

When I was 13 years old my buddy Scott was attacked by a doberman. It was bad. The dog mauled him head on—Scott's cheek was punctured, one eye was nicked and subsequently swollen shut, and he lost part of a finger trying to fend off the attack. It had been a family dog, one he'd lived with his entire life.

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As I drove down a frozen York Street toward the site of the recent Suncor disaster on the South Platte River, it felt like I was 13 years old again. I knew I had to go. I knew I had to see it with my own eyes, but I didn't want to. The music blared and I drove too fast—my usual modus operandi on the way to the DSP. But the feeling was different yesterday. As I approached the water and shut down the engine, not more than five miles from the front door of my house, it felt like I was approaching my good buddy’s house with trepidation after he had been attacked. I knew what I was about to witness was going to be bad. 

Here's what we know (*excerpts and quotes below from Trevor Tanner's blog: flycarpin.com):

- On Sunday November 27, Trevor Tanner went to fish the DSP

- What he found there was distressing

- He was able to contact authorities (*Precisely 10:03 AM: I made my first call to information in search of the CDPHE hotline; Precisely 10:16 AM: I placed the call to the duty officer with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hotline. He asked if he could call me back in 20 minutes. I got offended and rudely said, no. He sincerely apologized and took the information. I apologized for being rude about it. I then moved to a different section of the South Platte to continue fishing.)

- The authorities responded (Precisely 11:03 AM: I received a call indicating that somebody was on their way.)

- Five hours later, the authorities officially didn’t do a thing (Precisely 3:08 PM: I used "received calls" to call back and ask if he has walked Sand Creek and seen anything. He indicated that he did walk up the creek and did not see any sheen. I asked if I called the correct people. He assured me that I did. I foolishly assumed that the discharge had concluded and dissipated. It clearly had not. Either he did not know what to look for or the discharge had only temporarily stopped.)

- A buddy of Tanner's from Idaho (this is where things start to get amazing) read the blog and was also alarmed—so much so that he contacted Bruce Finley at The Denver Post (Bruce, if you are reading this great job on reporting this story—keep it going).

- Finley then contacted the EPA

- The EPA and SunCor then commenced mitigation efforts sometime on the night of Monday, Nov. 28

- The rest is ongoing history

Fast forward to yesterday. I was pissed off. Mad. Nervous. Concerned. There were knots in my stomach. I didn’t know what to expect. If you want to understand my perspective, click here.

I cranked down my hat, put on my sunglasses and wrapped a bandana around my face tightly because I don't like Benzene. If you are on the fence about Benzene, here are a few things you should know: Petroleum ether, also known as benzene is a group of various volatile, highly flammable, liquid hydrocarbon mixtures used chiefly as nonpolar solvents. During the Second World War some extermination camps experimented by killing people with benzene injections. Benzene causes cancer. Benzene is useful for removing the gum from self-adhesive stamps.

Benzene is exactly what is seeping into the South Platte River.  

Here is what I saw:

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This is normally a bad section of town and it typically has a bad industrial smell, but yesterday was definitely worse. The water smelled like gas. The first guy working the mitigation effort I ran into was wearing a respirator.

“Do they know what it is yet?” I asked.

All I could see was this guy’s eyes through a mask. They darted back and forth and I could tell he didn’t want to talk to me.  

“Nope.”

“Do they know where it is coming from?” I prodded.

“Nahhh.... not yet. They are not telling us,” he said.

“How about the lights?” I asked. “Did you guys work through the night?”

“Yeah, but not me. We’re working twelve-on-twelves. I have a day shift. All I know is that I’m going to be here until it is cleaned up.”

I thanked him for his efforts to help clean up my home water. I then marched down to the water. And found this.

Here is what I know: Because there was a guy who has a love for South Platte River he was fishing in November... for carp... in metro Denver. He saw something wrong in the environment. Because he was a Denver Trout Unlimited member he had access to people and resources and understood who he needed to call. After that... luck takes over. A lot of luck. But without the angler in the water with an understanding of what should and should not be going on in our river, this debacle could have been rotting the water and everyone downstream from it until January... or March. Or longer.

Great job Trevor.  

I’m not going to get on a soap box but god damn.. this shit needs to get fixed. Wake up Denver.  

The river is our friend and it just got wounded by a big mean dog—and it ain’t pretty.    

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